These boots can fly – with the right pilot
Good gear can only take you so far.I don’t think anything short of a snowmobile would have made the 3,267-foot climb up Aspen Mountain for the March 17 America’s Uphill race any easier, at least not for me. But I certainly can’t fault my choice of footwear.Kahtoola Flightboots are a neoprene booty that fits over a running shoe. They have gnarly teeth on rubber soles, perfect for digging into snow. The neoprene overshoes are great for climbing hard-pack. For deeper snow, the booties click into a Flightdeck, or small snowshoe, for added stability. The “flight” theme is inspired by the shoe’s ability to “fly” across snow.On the day of America’s Uphill, representatives from Kahtoola (the name means “directly” in Tibetan) were on hand at the Ute Mountaineer, offering free demos for the race. The brutal uphill was the perfect trial for these booties.The overshoes weigh about 1 pound each and have a durable zipper at the back, a Velcro flap at the front and a plastic ratchet strap that holds the shoe snug to the foot.They’re not the slickest-looking gear – I felt like a Japanese Manga character in the oversized boots – but they are very effective for snow travel, and they kept my feet warm and dry.I used just the booties alone (no snowshoes) and tested them before the actual race on the slick, groomed terrain just above the Silver Queen Gondola. I placed a foot in the snow and tried to scrape it backward – no luck. The teeth held fast to the snow.When the horn blew at the start, I was able to ratchet up the steepest steeps without sliding (I saw a few skiers fall when their climbing skins slipped, and some walkers wearing YakTrax had a hard time, too).The Kahtoolas couldn’t put air in my lungs or strength in my legs, but they made a tough climb much easier, and I came in at 1 hour, 20 minutes, in the middle of the pack of 284.The Flight System, both booties and snowshoes, costs $149 and comes in five sizes, from women’s size 5 to men’s 14. The company also makes a popular lightweight crampon in either steel or aluminum.For more information, go online to kahtoola.com.
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